J.J. Sedelmaier Productions Not Afraid of "Strangers with Candy"

WHITE PLAINS, NY February 16 Going against everything he was taught as a youngster, animation director J.J. Sedelmaier, of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, was not afraid of "Strangers with Candy." As a result, he enlisted Ward Sutton and produced the animated :30 show opening for Comedy Central's hit "alternative reality" series.

In Ward's trademark charicature style heavy line with bright, flat colors the open sums up Jerri Blank's (played by Amy Sedaris) life from the moment she walked out of Flatpoint High School, lo these many years ago, through her downward spiral into drugs, sex, rock 'n' roll, prostitution, robbery, and finally, hard time. But, now she's back at Flatpoint, determined to pick things up where she left off some 30 years earlier. Only she's a little, well, blank.

Sedelmaier got the call at the suggestion of creator/ writer/ lead actor Stephen Colbert, who portrayed the voice of "Ace" in t SNL's animated 'Ambiguously Gay Duo,' which Sedelmaier produced. "Producer Jerry Kupfer called but I told him I would have to see the show before committing. Sedaris's character is played so broadly, and the other leads appear so, almost normal, that I knew we could have some fun with the open." "What we had done last season with the show open was tell a testimonial background story. This season, rather than have Jerri talk directly to the camera to tell the backstory, we decided to use animation," said Jerry Kupfer, Comedy Central producer. "We tried to give the open the feel of Bewitched or I Dream of Jeanie."

"Strangers with Candy" was one of those dream jobs," Sedelmaier claims. "And a lot of things happened on various creative levels that were pretty cool, especially the chance to work with Ward Sutton, whose cartoony, edgy style has long intrigued me. Ward and I had been trying for some three years to work on something together. This was perfect. I told Ward that I wouldn't do it if he wasn't interested."

"J.J. got it right away," said Kupfer. "We wanted a little bit of a darkside look, but not too much. J.J. suggested Ward Sutton, who did a fabulous job, really nailed it. We're exremely happy and based on the feedback so far, we think that's its added an incredible amount to the show."

Sutton, whose career is in the ascendant since his New York Times Magazine cover illustration of Prince Charles, and posters for John Leguizamo's "Freak" and Jackie Mason's Broadway show "Much Ado About Everything," designed the Jerri Blank character. "Ward's (Sutton) style was tailor-made for the show," said Sedelmaier. "We passed along the initial designs and quickly moved into high gear over the Christmas break for 'Strangers' January debut."

Throughout the process Ward remained closely involved, fascinated by the process of seeing his first creation brought to live, and also contributed several character cards which serve as lead ins and outs. With the drawings in hand, Sedemaier's lead animator Tony Eastman took over. The ink and paint work was given to Cha-pow!, NJ. "Ward was very involved with all the color design, which we handled completely via email," said Sedelmaier.

"J.J. called, told me he had been looking for a project that fit my style, and said 'Strangers' seemed fun. He said he would do it if I was interested. I got some videotapes and liked the show a lot," said Sutton, who makes a acting debut in a cameo appearance as a police sketch artist in an upcoming episode.

"We worked together with the leads Steven Colbert, Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris. I did some characters which they loved, and proceeded to work off supplied content boards," said Sutton. "J.J. make a storyboard and I rendered the scenes in my trademark style. I loved the result and was amazed how much J.J.'s people put into it to create the sophistication of movement."

Sutton is recently returned form the Sundance Film Festival, for which he created the festival poster, program film guide, ticket art, T-shirts, and animated tags. "I'd love to do a film, probably something short to start with then, down the road a feature film or series. Attending Sundance and working on the set with 'Strangers with Candy' were very inspiring experiences."

J.J. Sedelmaier, the acclaimed director and animation visionary, is president of J.J. Sedelmaier Productions, White Plains, NY. Established in 1991, the award-winning studio has brought to life many of the seminal broadcast animation projects of recent years, ranging from the launch season of MTV's Beavis and Butthead, to an on-going series of edgy shorts for NBC's "Saturday Night Live," to the retro-hip Japanimation style VW "Speed Racer" commercial. Clients include all the major television networks and popular brands like Nike, Converse, Old Navy stores, Ortho and Quilters Northern Tissue. Recent awards include several 1999 Telly Award; a 1999 Art Director's Club Gold Award; and a 1999 Distinctive Merit Award from the Art Directors Club.